We interviewed a Jobcentre adviser to ask about their experiences of welfare reforms since the coalition came to power. Having seen the changes and effects of unprecedented reforms, we wanted to know how their job experiences and demands had changed. Following on from our other interview last week, we bring you a second interview with a Jobcentre Adviser.
In the first part of this interview we talk about changes to welfare since the coalition and how the number of unemployed is remaining hidden under reforms.
How long have you worked in the job centre?
“10 years+ and in numerous positions.”
What are your thoughts and experiences of welfare reforms and rules since the coalition came to power? How have they changed? What are they aimed towards? What have been the effects on the people you serve?
“It is clear that the Coalition/Tories have created a determined propaganda campaign against the most vulnerable members of society. From Osborne’s shirkers and workers speech to the ‘hardworking people’ mantra. Clearly designed to separate claimants from those who feel they are hard done to. If you can make the masses think that claimants are feckless lazy scum, you can get away with doing virtually anything to them. Who will stand up for the worthless? Well, Tory soundbites differ from the reality and I should know as I see it daily. Are there lazy people who do not want to work? Yes. I will not lie. However, these are in the minority. For some it is a transitory phase. Most do want to work and indeed sign off when the opportunity arises. Not through force, but for a number of other reasons. If jobs existed in the numbers that are required, they would find work. It’s all very well Duncan Smith and McVey spouting that there are x thousand jobs in the system. If you need experience in z and you only have experience in y, you aren’t going to get the job.
“I have witnessed several grown men with learning needs and disabilities crying and begging not to be sanctioned. I thought we were meant to help the vulnerable but we are now just a tool to get the numbers to back up the Coalition agenda.
“The reforms have been designed to hide the numbers of unemployed. So many have been sanctioned and are not counted in the official figures. Many are desperate and will take these Mickey Mouse zero-hour contracts to escape the fortnightly gauntlet. I must also add truthfully that I had never come across a zero hours vacancy until the last couple of years. That is not to say they did not exist but I never encountered one. Now they are everywhere.
“Apprenticeships are another tool to hide unemployment figures. Very cynical. Older folks will hear the spin – ‘1 million apprenticeships,’ and say ‘great!’. Wrong! Coffee shop apprentices, call centre apprentices etc, are just a way for employers to undercut the minimum wage. They are doing this in the thousands. Who can blame them? £98 per week and then get a new one in after 12 months. Fantastic! Britain now has a time served coffee shop worker to compete in Cameron’s global race.
“Wage Incentives. This scheme is an absolute disgrace. Employ an 18 – 24 yr old for 6 months and the taxpayer will give you £2.5k. Paid at minimum wage you will make a profit even if you get them to lick stamps. Vacancies that were full paid jobs are now changing to Wage Incentive vacancies as Job-centre staff convince employers to accept money for nothing. This is seriously affecting the jobs market and it is all down to Coalition pressure to increase Wage Incentive targets. They can then claim falsely that the scheme has created 1000’s of vacancies, when in truth it hasn’t. The vacancies were already there. The taxpayer has just paid 2.5k to employ A instead of B. Economic sense? Nope.”
Have you referred claimants to a food bank? If so, what were the reasons? Can you tell us about any experiences in particular?
“I have referred several customers to food banks. Mainly following a sanction. Although we were instructed to ‘signpost’ rather than ‘refer’, several months ago, after the press got hold of what we were doing. Prior to this we did have official instructions from a senior level to refer to food banks after the withdrawal of ‘Crisis Loans’. I have personally arranged food parcel deliveries for customers who for various reasons have ran out of food. I do not know how they manage on £71 or £56 per week.”
Read Part 2 of this interview tomorrow.